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Last week I was pleasantly surprised to be listening to the MEATEATER podcast Episode 096, Permissions! that discussed obtaining access to private property for the purpose of hunting and the crew discussed a letter I shared with them some months back.
Since then, some of the comments on MeatEaterTV and Steven Rinella Instagram posts relating to this episode have asked for the letter to be made available. I am not sure if they can do this so I am putting it up there for everyone with some additional notes for how I use the letter and why it is formatted the way it is.
I am putting up several files for you. (the Bold Dark Red Text are Links to the files)
File #1: WORD Document that you can open and edit to suit your needs.
File #2: PDF document of that same word document above. I have put this up so that if there are any compatibility issues between the version of Microsoft Word I am using and the version you are using, the PDF will display the layout properly. I am using Microsoft Word 2010. If you don't have Microsoft Word, you can open this PDF and grab the text from it to use in whatever word processing program you prefer or write it out by hand, just have clear handwriting.
File #3: PDF of the letter with note numbers so you can see how to edit it and why I wrote the letter the way I did. The notes for the letter are shown below.
LETTER NOTES (the downloadable Release and Permissions forms at the bottom)
I have sent a version of this letter to cities, property management companies and individuals. Most of the letters go to properties that are not developed and do not have a door that can be “knocked” on so this serves as my first impression. It needs to be thorough but not appear as though it was prepared by a lawyer. These notes hopefully help to explain why I wrote it this way and will help you modify it to be your own.
I have made this note version of the letter so you can be sure to change or add/subtract things from the letter that personalizes the letter for your own needs or for the person/organization that is receiving the letter. The biggest items to change have been changed to RED so it is easy to see. When you change it, change it back to black or to “automatic” in WORD (which is black).
In the PDF letter with Notes I have added note indications and they are placed on the letter so you can read the proper note for the section of letter that is being explained.
The reason I included an overhead map on the letter was for three reasons, #1, they may own multiple pieces of property, #2, they know you are doing your homework and #3, the graphic will grab their attention.
|Right-Clicking an image gives these and other editing options|
Typically this is all that is on page one of the letter but it achieves a simple task that is that it identifies the property and states your purpose. I think the simplicity and graphic it includes leads the reader onto the next page.
In North Carolina we have the option of painting a property border as I show in the graphic to indicate that a property is private and that the only people on the property will have written permission slips from the owner. Your local area may be different but marking a property with private property signs could be an alternative to what I have. Either way you go, I think a graphic showing what you will do is beneficial and keeps the reader’s attention.
I also offer to remove trash that I can hand carry. I again show a graphic of this task. I do not want to offer to remove those old appliances or couches straight off but for a good hunting property with a couple appliances, it may be worth the effort if an appliance is accessible and you have a truck and a buddy with a strong back.
I like to arrange photos in different locations on the page. I utilize the tools mentioned in Note #2. This is a personal preference of mine but by doing this it is my opinion is that it draws the eye to the photo and creates curiosity about what is being said concerning the photo more so than if it is just text or an image plopped anywhere on the page. It also shortens the distance the eye travels to read a sentence. This will help the reader stay focused on the content by making it easier for the eye to track a line of text from one end to the other. Remember, as technology improves, our attention spans shorten and people are becoming less likely to read big long paragraphs and sentences. Making it easier on their eyes will improves your chances.
I then identify myself and include a photo. This puts a face to your name, and depending on how you describe yourself, helps them determine if you are someone they would trust to be on their property. I probably would not put a photo of you with a big buck or a gun or bow in your hand; to some people this may come off the wrong way and help them pre-judge you. A pleasant non-professional photo is probably best to give you a “real-person” feel.
Note # 7
On the property referenced in this letter, shooting a firearm would be legal but on others I have attempted to gain access to, even though they have been over 100 acres, they have been inside the city limits and depending on the local ordinance (city code), discharging a firearm may be illegal. It is valuable to know the local law for discharging a firearm so it can be addressed. You may even want to check to see if a local ordinance has been passed about limiting or prohibiting hunting inside city limits. I bring this up because I want the reader to know I am already thinking about safety.
Be sure to research the local county, town or city that the property is zoned in. Most municipalities will have their ordinance available online and some offer search tools so you can quickly find key words "hunting", "discharge" or "firearm".
I address injury because no matter what we do, accidents happen. I personally wear a harness when in a tree even when on a permanent stand, I prefer the hassle of using it rather than a permanent limp my neighbor has from falling out of a tree stand and breaking his pelvis. I have seen ankles break from slipping on ice walking down a hill or bad level 3 sprains from stepping in a hole. It is good to let the property owner know you or anyone with you won’t sue them so I include this RELEASE, HOLD HARMLESS & INDEMNIFICATION form provided courtesy of the NRA. See Note #13.
NC Wildlife provides a permission form that should be carried with you and presented to a wildlife officer if you are approached and questioned about your right to be on the property. If your wildlife authority does not do this, I have made one for you to have signed by the property owner. It just shows the owner you are responsible. See Note #14.
I wrap up the letter by summing up the letter’s purpose, thanking them for reading the entire letter while prompting them for a response. Notice that I list what I am doing for them before I recap that I am requesting something from them.
I give the letter reader basic forms of contact; address, phone, email.
I would not want to give them any social media contact information because you may open yourself up to micro analyzing before you get contacted based on information you or your family and friends connected to you post. You never know who really is on the other end of the letter so political statements, sports team support or even a photo of a frosty drink could swing your permission to access question into the “no” category. Plus, if you are posting hunting photos of bucks you have killed or of you and your buddies out hunting, you may appear as though you really don’t need more hunting ground.
I include a self-addressed stamped envelope folded up in the original letter. Just to make responding to me or sending me permission access just a little easier. If the owner is nearby, I may even offer to come pick it up so they can get a face to face meeting.
INCLUDED ITEMS IN THE LETTER
RELEASE, HOLD HARMLESS & INDEMNIFICATION form from the NRA
Change the form to have the appropriate information where I have the RED text and then change it back to black as I detailed above in Note #1. Then make two copies and pre-sign your side (Participant) on both. I put sticky notes on the two print outs of this form. One sticky says “Property Owner’s Copy” and the other copy says “Please return in the self-addressed stamped envelope” so they can include one to be sent back to you and keep one for their records.
Unless you are in North Carolina or your state provides a permission form, I have made one for you.
I would prefill some of the blanks. If you don’t have good handwriting, have someone else do it. Put your name, the number of guests you would like with you, your requested actions and dates requested.
Don’t push the number of guests. I only put 1 guest thinking that they would view more than that to much on an initial request and it also shows you intend on keeping the number to just you and one person. This may ease the thought of you bringing a bunch of people on the property.
For action, keep it simple, “scouting and hunting” is simple enough. You may even want to say “cleaning” to improve your chances.
I also include a second blank one if they want to change the dates or number of guests.
For the date, I only ask for one year so if I send the letter on January 2, 2018 I request from that date to January 2, 2019. Consider the dates of your hunting season when requesting this, you don't want your permission to run out in the middle of a hunting season.
This is North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commision’s form
NC Wildlife Permission Form
The original envelope I sent is also hand addressed. A hand addressed envelope is estimated to be three times as likely to be opened verses a typed envelope. By using this method, you are already making the letter personal and increasing you chances of a response before it is even opened.
I hope these documents and notes help out and I am delighted to be the Creepy yet Diligent fellow hunter.
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